A General Overview of the Village History
Although there is no published evidence of a permanent settlement of First Nations at the Point, its proximity to the Serpent Mounds area indicates there is a distinct possibility that there was. The excellent water routes, fishing and location suggest that some permanent settlement could have existed here, but, to date, only the occasional artifact has been discovered as a record of these early settlers.
European settlement began when John Langton (later to become Auditor-General of Upper and Lower Canada and Vice Chancellor of Toronto University) emigrated from England and settled on the Fenelon side of Blythe Farm in 1833. His sister, Anne, a journal keeper (“A Gentlewoman in Upper Canada”) and artist, arrived to join him in 1837. Her journals record the first Regatta held at Sturgeon Point in 1838.
The first social contacts by the Langtons were with other settlers in Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon. However, Lindsay soon became the major influence on settlement at Sturgeon Point. The County of Victoria was created in 1851 and the Point soon became a summer venue of the Lindsay townspeople. The first hotel opened in 1876, but was destroyed by fire in 1898 (scroll down for a picture of the hotel).
There are a number of records of excursions from Lindsay to the Point, the largest being in 1881 when more than 3,000 people traveled by various excursion boats to the Point for a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s new operetta, “The Pirates of Penzance”. It is probably around this time that the first summer residences were built.
Lindsay’s affiliation with the Point continued, as many residents began sending their families (often complete with servants and livestock) for the summer at Sturgeon Point. The men would frequently commute daily by steamer, such as the “Lintonia”. From then on, Sturgeon became a largely non-commercial summer-cottage community. There were always a few permanent residents whose livelihood was either farming or serving the cottagers. However, the Point is basically stored in the collective memory as a summer playground by the descendants of the first cottagers, in some cases now spanning five – or even six – generations.
During the late 1950s a trend towards cottage winterization began, much to the distress of the true summer cottagers who maintain the hope that the summer place of their childhood memories still exists. The Point is increasingly becoming a “dormitory settlement” with permanent residents composed of both retired past cottagers and non-cottagers who work locally.
STEAMSHIPS AND HOTELS ON STURGEON LAKE
source for text and photos: Scugog Heritage
In 1875, [shipbuilder George Crandell] … decided to drum up business by building a summer hotel at Sturgeon Point. He launched a stock company to finance the venture. Crandell’s previous economic record was beyond reproach. In spite of the severe economic conditions, Crandell had little difficulty in raising the necessary capital.
He purchased a 100 acre property at Sturgeon Point. A hundred yards from the water’s edge, in the middle of a stand of trees, he built a stately 40 roomed three storey frame palace with a two storey verandah running around three sides and an elegant mansard roof. It was officially opened on June 15, 1876. Later the hotel complex was expanded to include a dance hall, shuffle board courts and bath houses.
Crandell’s Sturgeon Point Hotel in 1876
Crandell’s Sturgeon Point Hotel was extremely popular for picnics, dances and, of course, boating regattas. Prospects improved further when the closet rival hotel, the Couchiching Hotel near Orillia burned down.
As with all of Crandell’s previous ventures the Sturgeon Point Hotel was a phenomenal success. Boating regattas of various types were held regularly. On one occasion in 1878, special trains ran from Port Hope and Toronto, bringing 2,000 to Lindsay. They were then taken by boat to the hotel. An Oddfellow’s excursion in 1881 drew 3,000 visitors. This occasion was climaxed by the production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s new operetta, Pirates of Penzance.
Boyed by the success of the Sturgeon Point Hotel, he built another hotel at Fenelon Falls, but it burned to the ground in 1884.
Crandell sold the Sturgeon Point Hotel after seven seasons to J. “Ebe” Dunham of Cobourg, but, ever the canny businessman,. Crandell kept much of the waterfront acreage which he sold off as lots to the wealthy.
Sturgeon Lake Steamboats: the Woodman
Sturgeon Lake Steamboats: the SS Vanderbilt
Sturgeon Lake Steamboats: the Crandella
Sturgeon Lake Steamboats: the Esturian.
Source: THE STORY OF FORGOTTEN REGATTAS AT STURGEON POINT, by Watson Kirkconnell, M.A.
From the earliest times the hardwood groves at Sturgeon Point were a favorite rendezvous for picnics and excursions. The first regatta here was held in 1841, eighty years ago. All pleasure on that occasion was marred by the drowning of a Mr. Wetherup, who upset from his canoe while in the act of taking off his coat. He was a powerful swimmer, but with his arms thus pinioned behind him he was lost at once. Thirty-five years later, Captain George Crandell, of Lindsay, the chief promoter of navigation on local waters, realized the possibilities of Sturgeon Point as a summer village and spent some $25,000 in developing it towards that end. In 1876 he built a large summer hotel, the management of which was undertaken by W. H. S impson. Crandell also purchased an extensive tract adjacent to the hotel and plotted out lots for summer cottages. These were quickly bought up and built upon: and thus began the summer colony at the Point. The first regatta under the auspices of cottagers was held on September 18, 1878. The event of the day was a double canoe race in which two Rama Reserve Ojibwas named Yellowhead won by a narrow margin from Whetong and Toboco, two Mississagas from the Chemong Reserve. The winners paddled a birch bark canoe at seventy strokes to the minute. There were several white entrants in this open race, but all were left hopelessly behind by the two Indian crews. About this time a black bear was found roaming about near the hotel and was disposed of by excited huntsmen. The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1893, but the village about it had continued to flourish. It is a somewhat effete existence that these large community summer resorts offer to anyone possessed of youth and vigor: but they are a true paradise for little children and a healthful week-end refuge for urban workers who have no vacation in which to sally by canoe into the magnificent wildernesses of North Victoria and Haliburton.